Speeding up a Turkic truck in Central Asia

Speeding up a Turkic truck in Central Asia

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
In a fast moving world where speed matters the most, the fact that the average speed of a truck carrying goods between Turkey and Central Asia can drop to as low as 17.5 km/h might come as a surprise. “No, it’s not that the roads are bad. It is the difficulties at customs control, including widespread corruption, that slows the trucks down,” Halil Akıncı, Secretary General of the Turkic Council, told a group of journalists he met yesterday.

“None of the member countries denied the existence of the problems. So that’s why we are hopeful of improving the speed of transportation,” Akıncı said of the economic commission that was set up under the Turkic Council, made of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.

Post-Soviet period

Ever since the demise of the Soviet Union, Turkey has tried to unify the Turkic republics, but the euphoria of the early days faded quickly, with the new republics remaining skeptical of Turkey’s intentions. As they did not want to replace the “big brother” of Russia with another one, their commitments to cooperation under a Turkic umbrella remained limited.

It took nearly two decades before the Cooperation Council of Turkish Speaking Countries, known as the Turkic Council, was established in 2009. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are still not members.

It seems that Turkey still remains the most enthusiastic among the four, and initiatives coming from Turkey are still met with a degree of suspicion. There is an equal division of labor, said Akıncı, adding that each country had certain responsibilities. “Our most important principle is voluntariness,” said Akıncı.

This is very important, as Akıncı believes that in the past Turkish nations were unified forcefully; whereas this is the first time in history that Turkic states are coming together voluntarily under one roof.

Abolishing obstacles

Economic cooperation remains a priority, with the main aim being the abolishment of obstacles to increase trade.

“Transportation is still the biggest obstacle,” Akıncı said. “Just as in the rest of the world, we encourage the cooperation between states and the private sector,” he added. This year’s summit, to take place in the autumn, will focus on scientific and cultural cooperation.

The Turkish Academy, which is based in Kazakhstan, will be reactivated to host scientific research on the Turkish world.

It has already been decided to write joint books for the school curriculum, but the decision to adopt a joint alphabet, prepared by the general secretariat, will be left to the summit.

The initial hesitations to political cooperation are currently not so pressing, so acting as a unified bloc in international organizations has become one of the present missions of the Turkic Council. “We have established a pool so that each country will notify in advance its candidacy to international organizations,” said Akıncı.

That is important in order to avoid cases such as when Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan applied for the same period of United Nations Security Council non-permanent membership.

“We ended our membership and there is now Azerbaijan; the aim should be having a Turkic state in the Security Council,” he added.